Tag Archives: sacrament

8 July: The Scandal of Disunity

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There are signs of hope. Here is Francis, Bishop of Rome, receiving a blessing from Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury. No charade, surely? The Pope would not bring about scandal by seeking a blessing from a heretic schismatic. When Bishop Nicholas Hudson joined Bishop Trevor Willmott in blessing the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral, what were we to make of the implied recognition of value in Anglican orders?

The scandal is not that these isolated events happen, but that we lack the courage of our convictions, so they remain isolated. Forty years ago I was assured that, juridically, Anglican orders were all valid since Old Catholic bishops had taken part in enough ordinations to ensure recognition of Anglican Apostolic Succession.

In another church, a good distance from Canterbury, a Catholic bishop was ordained recently, with his friend, co-worker and Anglican bishop, robed on the sanctuary. It was good to see him there, but he was not invited to join the Catholic bishops by laying hands on the ordinand.

And the announcement that day deterring non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist? If a bishop being ordained is not one of those special occasions when Eucharistic hospitality is to be encouraged, I’m not clear when it may be grudgingly permitted. Put out into the deep!

WT.

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June 22: Shared Table V, A big Miracle.

bread-fish-strasbg

Do I need to add that it was another true story? One of the most spectacular shared meals of all time, that puts into the shade our small miracle recalled in Tuesday’s post – and it happened in the unforgiving Galilean sunshine. 5,000 men, not to mention women and children, all of them fed from  five loaves and two little fish.

John’s account (Chapter 6) tells us that the food was offered by a small boy. So even then, the Lord depended on others to complete his work.

John also tells us that Jesus spoke about himself as real food:

For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.

Well, they did not get it, those who walked no more with him. But do we get it? Remember  Herbert McCabe:

The doctrine of transubstantiation, as I see it, is that the bread and wine become more radically food and drink.

To the naked eye the Eucharist is nothing like as spectacular as the feeding of the five thousand, at which Jesus floated the idea of his body as food to his followers. But consider how we feel more alive in the company of loved ones, as part of a crowd with a purpose such as cheering on a sports team; breathing the same air, hearing and singing the same chants, sharing conversation. We feel energised.

We can be less than 100% attentive to what is being said and done at Mass, receiving the Sacrament in a daze of fatigue or fret. But our presence, our extended hand, are there not just in the moment, but more radically are on the brink of the eternal moment.

(I doubt the loaves and fish were as big as these carved on Strasbourg Cathedral)

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31 May: The Visitation: Mary, Mother of God.

 

360px-Church_of_the_Visitation_IMG_0637On the feast of the Visitation, here is Fr Austin’s reflection on Mary, mother of God, and what that means for us.

When God chose to become part of Creation through the Incarnation, the motherhood of Mary was already implied. The Church says nothing about the course of her life from the day it began until the Annunciation. What happened during that time, what it meant to start life full of Grace we don’t know. It will have been ordinary, if only because ostentation and grace do not belong together.

Scripture does not primarily tell us of the dignity of Mary by recounting facts about her physical motherhood of Jesus, or say that Mary is Mother of God as a consequence of a physical event. It tells us what Mary did, and this shows her importance and dignity. Luke shows us Mary, becoming through free consent one who is blessed. Because the divine motherhood is described from the start, not simply as a biological event, but as taking place through a free, personal and grace-inspired act of faith, Mary is seen not simply with a private relationship to Jesus, but as inserting her into the wider story of redemption. She appears as a figure in history, like Abraham and other characters in the historical dialogue between God and Israel. We are simply told that this person was asked, and replied: be it done… Because of her consent, the Word became flesh, and Mary is Mother of God.

God created the world, and so everything belongs. But this creation can stand forever distant, or it can belong. Which of the two possibilities is actually realised is not finally decided by the fact of creation; it is only decided in the course of history. God created a world of free persons, and so a drama develops between God and the world. For God is not the only one who is active, producing the drama as though through puppets. God creates in freedom, so there actually does arise a dialogue between a free God and free human beings. From God’s point of view it is a dialogue always open; we can act freely as long as our history lasts, we can freely choose to respond in any way we like.

From a natural point of view God is free to choose to respond in whatever way; we do not know God will act in our regard. God could dissociate from us, or invite us closer. Happily, everything is very different from that. God has spoken clearly, definitively and irrevocably. This word has been spoken into creation, and it will not return to the Father without achieving its purpose. God’s intention has become flesh in our world. God has determined that the world itself shall be taken into eternal mercy, and that it now has a destiny that transcends its own natural one. Judgement is not God’s last word, but compassion; not isolation but intimacy.

The Word was made flesh because a girl of our race, listened, was apprehensive but cooperative and said yes, freely. This is the way God chose to become part of creation. Of course, Mary’s consent her willingness freely given is itself the fruit of grace. Yet though all this is the fruit of grace, yet it remains Mary’s own freely given consent. When God gives gifts they become precisely what is our own, completely identified with us. God gifts me with the ability to love worthily, yet with a love that is truly mine! It is as much mine as my life – since it is gifted from the same source.

Mary’s motherhood is by the grace of God alone, and her own free act, inseparably; and since this belongs intrinsically to the story of Redemption, it gives Mary a real relationship with us, since we are living within the history of redemption. To praise her motherhood is not to honour something belonging to her private life, but in the light of the context of the Incarnation, she is also mother to us.

Saint Francis tells us we are all mothers of the Lord – we have conceived through word and sacrament, now bring him to birth by the way you live.

AMcC.

 

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4 April: Suffering and Sainthood.

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I’ve just read a new blogger, Kate. Have a look at her writing about suffering  here .

The same day I had seen a man in town, offering ‘prayer for healing’ invitation cards. I was not up for a theological discussion at the time. Not that I wouldn’t mind a spot of healing. I have long-running pain after an assault. I have tried therapies from surgery to acupuncture. After being told by one expert doctor that he sees plenty of people like me who ‘by all we know should not have pain after so much time’ and that he could do no more, I try to carry the cross and get on with life. Very Lenten? Perhaps.
Kate offers a well-considered list of responses to long-term illness. The ideas make good sense theologically and psychologically. I would just add ‘count your blessings’.

Counting blessings – or acknowledging one worth recalling each day – ought to be part of anyone’s examination of conscience. I can always find at least one blessing, however small, to be grateful for. Thus my daughter’s eyes alighted on the snowdrops outside our door when she visited the day I wrote this: her delight was mine.
Remember the man by the library. I could have challenged him. What would healing mean for my condition? God taking away the pain or transforming it? How many go to Lourdes and return with their physical problem as it was in the beginning? I think I have to accept the possibility that the Lord can transform the pain, but also that accepting it may be slowing me down enough to stop and stare a little.

I leave you with the first heading on Kate’s list of ways to deal with chronic illness: Talk to God. Check out the rest of her post!

The Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs at Cambridge expresses in concrete prayer many of the ideas Kate and I touch on: suffering transformed, sacraments, creation, blessings.

MMB

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31 July: The Psalms as personal prayer: I

Psalms

What is it like to use the psalms for prayer every day and many times a day?  By God’s grace, my experience of praying the psalms daily now stretches over nearly four decades.  I shall try to say a little about what I have learned during this time.

For me, the psalms are one of the chief means by which I’m able to fulfil the call I received from God so many years ago.  How is this so?

Some personal background seems necessary here:  I was a “cradle Catholic”, who was taught her faith and who received the Sacraments in the way that was customary at the time.  I went to Mass and said my prayers, but without much grasp of what was behind all this.  And had any choice been available to me, I am sure I’d have chosen to leave the Church sometime in my teens.

It came, then, as a huge re-ordering of my existence when, in early adulthood, some seeds of belief that had been dormant in me began to put forth shoots.  Circumstances at that time conspired to give me a desire to explore my faith – and I did.  This exploration marked the beginning of my serious practice of Catholicism.  I received the gift of faith in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit; also the gift of faith in the Church as bearer of truth for humanity.  And people!  People were very much part of this conversion – humanity loomed large.  I developed a hunger to be present to suffering humanity in a deeper way than was possible to me within the constraints of what was then a career in classical ballet.  How could I bring Christ to birth in the world?  I had received the grace of conversion, and I longed to be instrumental in that grace reaching others.  I wanted to be everywhere and present to everyone, on the deepest possible level.

I began to look at religious orders.  I gradually realised that it was through prayer that my intense desire to be everywhere and present to everyone could be fulfilled.  This faith in the power of prayer was another great gift from this period in my life.  Eventually, monastic life, with its strong emphasis on the apostolate of prayer, seemed the way forward for me.

Now, having been a nun for close to forty years, how have my aspirations to be present to suffering humanity panned out?  There are many aspects to a monastic vocation, but I’ve found that it is chiefly within the Opus Dei – the Divine Office – that I find that I can be everywhere and with everyone.  That is because of the prayer book that’s used – which is the Psalter.

SJC

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March 6th The midpoint of Lent: the Incipience of the Kingdom

 

Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 33; 2Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15

Today’s Liturgy of the Word anticipates the Kingdom in the most immediate and embodied metaphor of all: that of eating. The Israelites eat their first meal of the produce of the Promised Land. And what a feast it is: unleavened bread and roasted corn; simple, flavoursome and nutritious (and as such, a rather apt metaphor for God). The psalm response calls us to Taste and see that the Lord is good! Paul speaks of our becoming the goodness of God. And Jesus responds to Pharisaic criticism of his eating with sinners by recounting the tale of the Prodigal Son, a ‘sinner’ whose conversion comes when in his hunger he envies the pigs the husks they eat, and whose homecoming is celebrated with a banquet. Just as spousal metaphors for union with God illuminate its interpersonal nature, so culinary metaphors illuminate its transfigurative dimension. We become what we eat. Sacramentally, we become the goodness of God by eating the goodness of God. But as the thirteenth century Dutch poet Hadewijch saw, where God is concerned, eating too is interpersonal: when we eat God, he eats us:

 

Each knows the other through and through

In the anguish or the repose or the madness of Love,

And eats his flesh and drinks his blood.

The heart of each devours the other’s heart,

One soul assaults the other and invades it completely,

As he who is Love itself showed us

When he gave us himself to eat,

Disconcerting all the thoughts of man.

MLT.

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